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Structure of the U.S. Constitution

The dozen years prior to the Constitutional Convention was a period in which the "rich and wellborn" exerted considerable influence. These people consisted of merchants, bankers, and big landowners, and they had the power to make themselves heard and thus to press for their particular view of what shape the new nation should take. The U.S. was not the egalitarian society it has been painted to be but was instead marked by social class divisions. From the earliest colonial times, men of influence had received land grants from the crown and had presided over growing estates. The regions that became the first 13 states had their restrictive laws and practices which shut out certain segments of society while inviting in others. In all but Pennsylvania, only property-owning white males could vote or hold office, and excluded were all Native Americans, persons of Africa descent, women, indentured servants, and white males without sufficient property. Property qualifications for holding office were higher than for being able to vote, thus making it certain that the government would be headed only by members of a largely wealthy elite (Parenti 49-50).

The Founding Fathers came from this elite group, and they had specific concepts they wanted to include in the new Constitution and also certain interests they wanted to protect. Many of these men were linked together by kinship, marriage, and business dealings. The delegates to the Consti


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